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A BOY'S BATTLE
THE YOUNG OF HEART SERIES
1. Hero-Chums By Will Allen Dromgoole
2. The Pineboro Quartette By Willis Boyd Allen
3. One Thousand Men for a Christmas Present,
By Mary A. Sheldon
4. Daddy Darwin's Dovecote By Juliana H. Ewing
5. Rare Old Chums By Will Allen Dromgoole
6. The Drums of the Fore and Aft,
By Rudyard Kipling
7. The Strange Adventures of Billy Trill,
By Harriet A. Cheever
8. A Boy's Battle By Will Allen Dromgoole
9. The Man Without a Country,
By Edward Everett Hale
10. Editha's Burglar. By Frances Hodgson Burnett
11. Jess By J. M. Barrie
12. Little Rosebud By Beatrice Harraden
Special Cover Design on each Volume
Each, Thin 12mo. Cloth. 50 Cents
DANA ESTES & CO., Publishers, Boston
" 'I WAS SENT HERE TO TELL YOU UNCLE PETE IS COMING HOME.' "
A BOY'S BATTLE
WILL ALLEN DROMGOOLE
AUTHOR OF THE HEART OF OLD HICKORY,"
THE VALLEY PATH," ETC.
ILL USTRA TED
ESTES AND LAURIAT
BY ESTES AND LAURIAT
Electrotyped and Printed by C. H. Simonds & Co.
Boston, U. S. A.
TO MY BROTHER
infatrbt 38anihbeatb flagxruber 3iroingoole
WHO DIED IN EARLY YOUTH
BUT WHOM MY LIFE HAS MISSED
I. AN ACCIDENT .
II. THE BATTLE BEGINS
III. IN THE THICKEST OF THE FIGHT
IV. VICTORY .
V. PEACE .
"' I WAS SENT HERE TO TELL YOU UNCLE PETE IS
COMING HOME.' Frontispiece
"A HEAVY DARK OBJECT CRASHED THROUGH THE
RODE AWAY TO JAIL BEHIND THE DEPUTY SHERIFF." 53
"HE GAVE HIMSELF UP TO MEDITATION." 73
"IT WAS DARK WHEN HE REACHED THE CABIN DOOR." 87
A BOY'S BATTLE.
T HE big farm-bell began to ring, calling the
hands from the cotton field to their dinner.
With the first note from the iron clapper Andrew
Pearson dropped the book he had been reading and
sprang to his feet. It was Saturday noon; on Satur-
days the hands were allowed to leave the field at
noon, if they chose to do so, without jeopardising
their chances of being employed again on Monday.
If they preferred it, they were at liberty to work on
as usual, the full day's time. Being paid according
to the amount of cotton they brought to the gin, the
loss from the half holiday was their own.. They
always chose the holiday; not one of them, those
employed by the day, and those engaged by the year
alike, but hung his basket under the shed at Saturday
noon, there to remain until Monday morriing.
"I must see uncle Jack before he gets off," said
Andrew, dashing, boy fashion, through the house, and
A BOY'S BATTLE.
with every dog on the place at his heels. He might
be going to town if he hasn't forgot his promise.
Most of the hands do go to town Saturdays."
"And come back drunk, if they dodge the police
and the lockup," said Mr. Pearson, who had come out
by another door just in time to hear his son's words.
Andrew's eyes flashed.
"Uncle Jack doesn't get drunk," said he. "He
says he promised Miss Jinny' (that's his wife) forty
years ago he wouldn't, and he never has. I call that
a rare good promise-keeper. And I'm glad he is,
because he promised to let me go 'possum-hunting
with him the very first good day he was out of the
cotton field. Last Saturday it rained; I think we'll
You ain't goin' off on. no 'possum-huntin', An-
drew," cried a sharp voice from the kitchen, where
Mrs. Pearson was frying turnover pies for dinner.
" I ain't goin' to have you coming' back here with your
arms shot off, or maybe your head, even. You can
just make up your mind to leave that gun be. You
ain't goin' traipsin' around the farm with a parcel o'
niggers this day; that you ain't."
Oh, mother, don't say that! said Andrew. "I
shoot any time with father, and I'm not the least
afraid of the gun."
"Which ain't any sign it won't go off and land you
where you'll be mighty willing' to own your mammy
knows some things."
Mrs. Pearson was one of those women whose boast
it was, that, having spoken her mind, she never
changed it. Andrew knew it was useless to argue
the matter. He did attempt a little boasting, but, it
was very promptly nipped in the bud.
"You make me out such a baby, mother," he pro-
tested, his lips quivering. I'm not afraid of the
gun; I'm not afraid of anything. Didn't I ride to
town alone at midnight to bring the doctor to uncle
Jack, the time he was so bad off ? And I swam Stone
River on the bay mare and brought Mrs. Davis and
her baby to the bank that time they took the wrong
ford. And I-"
Yes, yes; you're the peartest fifteen-year-old ever
was seen, I'll be bound. You might a-broke your
neck on that wild filly; it's a mercy you didn't.
But if old Jack's the occasion of the hurry, I'll be
bound you're ready to canter. As for swimming' Stone
River, it was a mighty darin' thing to do, and if I'd
a-been asked, you wouldn't a-done it, that's all."
Andrew turned away with a sigh. When his
mother spoke in that tone there was no appealing
from her decision. And she had decided that he was
not to go 'possum-hunting with uncle Jack.
There was nothing to do but run down to the
cabin, that stood, with several others, in a grove of
wild locusts at the top of the hill beyond the spring
branch, and some few hundred yards to the left of the
" big gate" that opened upon the glistening white
turnpike, and see the old man unchain the dogs and
trudge off to the sweet, autumn-crowned woods alone.
A BOY'S BATTLE.
"And it is such a good day," said Andrew, as he
went down the path. "The woods will be full of
'possum, and wild grapes, and persimmons. Afraid
of a gun I'd as soon be a girl and be done with it,
if I must never leave off wearing dresses, anyhow."
It was a disappointment. He listened a moment
for the deep, mellow baying of the hounds, Ring and
Ready and Bess and Lil, that would be almost frantic
to be off whenever uncle Jack should step to the
cabin door with his gun upon his shoulder.
And they would not return, Andrew knew, until
dark, and, judging by the past, there would be a
fat, stumpy-tail 'possum dangling from the hunter's
shoulder, while his hat would be filled with mealy,
ripe persimmons, and every pocket bulging with wild
grapes. Perhaps there would be a coon to keep the
'possum company. It was too bad. For one moment
he was half tempted to run away and go, anyhow.
But the next -
Shucks !" he said, unc' Jack wouldn't begin to
As he drew nearer the cabin he noticed that the
dogs were silent; the cabin door stood wide upon its
hinges, and the odour of burning bacon met him upon
The room was deserted; a wooden tray of corn-
meal dough upon the hearth, near the smoking hoe,
told him that aunt Jenny, old Jack's wife, had been
called out just at the moment when about to slap her
hoc-cake upon the hoe.
Some broad, long strips of bacon were burning to
a crisp upon the live coals that had been raked upon
the hearth. Upon another heap a coffee-pot was
"boiling over," the muddy, blackish foam sputtering
and spitting among the hot embers. A lean, black
foxhound, which Andrew recognized as Lil, possibly
because of the one white spot over her left eye, was
nosing as close to the burning bacon as she dared
approach. A yellow cat had her nose in the bread-
tray upon one side, and a speckled pullet was picking
at the unusual feast upon the other.
Andrew stopped but a moment to exclaim against
the rogues, "You, Lil, come out of there. Scat!
Shoo! you petty thieves you! "
The next moment, above the soft pitapat of the
dog's feet, and the clicking, harsh sound of the pul-
let's claws upon the bare floor, as the invaders scam-
pered out by way of a back door, Andrew heard the
voice of aunt Jenny in angry protest, and, glancing
in the direction whence it came, he saw the old negro
and his wife coming slowly across the vacant field in
the rear of the cabin.
"You ain' got a mite o' sense," said aunt Jenny.
You's de biggest' gump dat walks de earth, I reckin;
go traipsin' off after a man what's too drunk ter know
what he's sayin', anyhow."
Ef," said uncle Jack, and the grin upon his face
contradicted the severity of his tone, "ef he hab
de reasonment ter talk, he sholy hab got de reason-
ment ter hold his tongue. Dat nigger ain' horned
A BOY'S BATTLE.
yit, Miss Jinny, what kin call ole Jack a thief. Ez
fur dis here Yeller Pete, I'll let de daylight enter dat
yeller gent'man sum o' dese days, you har me."
"Shet yo' mouf!" exclaimed aunt Jenny, sharply.
"All de hands at de gin-house done hear you say dat
alraidy. You better shet yo' mouf, en keep it shet till
you fin' out it ain' no pra'r-book, ef it do op'n en shet."
Let up, Miss Jinny, let up," said uncle Jack, who
had caught sight of Andrew coming out to meet him.
"You's done said more'n enoughh ter let de ole man
know he ain' got no sense. En dat chile sholy come
ter go after dat fat 'possum we been layin' off ter
h'ist out o' dat persimmon-tree, whar he done tuk
inter his head ter roost. Go long dar, Miss Jinny,
en gib yo' ole man his bite o' corn bread en fat meat,
en don't be keeping' de little master waiting. "
Good mind ter let you go widout a bite," said aunt
Jenny, as she trudged off to the cabin and her inter-
rupted duties. "Makin' me leab things ter burn up
en go racin' after you, because you ain' got no mo'
sense en ter go qua'llin' back at a man what's drunk.
Has ter chase him off wid you' gun."
Heish, chile, heish," said uncle Jack, laughing;
" dis gun ain' had no load in hit since las' summer,
not since I shot dat fine rabbit what turn out ter be
ole Mis' tom-cat. Eh, eh! "
His good-humour only exasperated his wife the
"En dat's all de sense you got, anyhow," she de-
clared. "Not ter know a rabbit from a gray cat.
You ain' fitten ter be let go off by yo'se'f, you sholy
Uncle Jack was a good-natured old fellow, if a
trifle reckless when angered. He bore the reproaches
of his wife, whom he always addressed as "Miss
Jinny," with wonderful patience always. They had
lived together in -slavery and in freedom too long for
him not to know that under all the sharp, shrill scold-
ing there was a genuine affection, and a heart that
held his happiness and safety first always.
This afternoon he bore aunt Jenny's temper with
unusual meekness, perhaps because he already recog-
niscd the folly of which he had been guilty. True,
the old gun was not loaded; but it had frightened
poor, half-drunken Pete quite as effectually as though
it had been full charged.
Uncle Jack's last view of him had been to see
him flying past his own house with a wild yell that
brought his wife, Big Lize, to the door to see what
was the matter. But he had been too frightened to
stop. All Big Lize saw was Pete making for .the
cedar woods, and uncle Jack being escorted home
again by aunt Jenny.
Pete, known about the plantation as Yellow Pete,
was a small, willowy mulatto, of a crafty and resent-
ful disposition, though brave enough when sober.
Aunt Jenny's assertion that Yeller Pete gwine ter
git eben wid you ef it takes de balance ob de year,"
was a pretty fair description of the mulatto's disposi-
A BOY'S BATTLE.
What did he do, uncle Jack?" said Andrew, as
he followed the negro to the cabin, where aunt Jenny
had resumed her task of preparing the hasty noonday
Do ?" said uncle Jack.
Yes; what did Yellow Pete do to you?"
Do to me?"
"Yes, to you. What did he do that made you so
"Mad ? I ain' mad, honey; hit wuz dest a min-
ute I wuz beside myse'f; it wuz all obcr in a minute.
I ain' gwine gib dat nigger a secondary thought; I
ain', sholy, sholy."
But what did he do ?" said Andrew, his curiosity
at full heat.
Do ? "
Yes; what did he do to you ?"
"Ter who, me ? "
Yes; did he hit you ?"
"Did who hit who ?" demanded old Jack, with a
show of temper. Did he hit me ? Naw, honey, dat he
didn't; dat he didn't. Dey wouldn't be hide nor taller
left o' dat yeller gent'man if he'd a-laid do weight
ob his finger on dis nigger. He jest p'intedly gib de
ole man a little bit a bit too much ob his tongue.
I don't want ter hurt somebody, but I reckin I'll
hab ter do some killing anyhow, ef dat Pete don't
keep out ob my way. I 'spect I'd a-killed him dis
time ef dar wuz any load in de gun. When a man
am tolerable mad, son, he oughtn't fur tcr keep
his guns 'roun' too handy. Dey might go off too
He was only indulging in a little boasting. In
his customary good-humour he would no more have
injured Pete than he would have harmed the boy at
his side,- the boy who was almost as fond of him
as he was of his own father. And the boast was
meant only for the boy's ears; neither of them noticed
the large, tall negro man crossing the lot but a short
distance from the point where they stood, and in
easy ear-shot of their voices. This negro was Blind
Sam," a field-hand from a neighboring plantation; a
bad fellow, who had stirred up many quarrels among
the hands, and had lost his own right eye in a broil
of his own brewing.
As Blind Sam went across the lot, he looked back
at Jack with his one bright eye, and slowly shook his
Make mighty free wid dat ar tongue o' his," said
he, and passed on, leaving uncle Jack to finish his
Andrew turned his head just in time to see Sam's
disfigured face disappear down the path that led
through the orchard beyond the cabins.
"Pete had been drinking' some," said uncle Jack.
"I ought ter a-come -'long in de house, lack Miss
Jinny tol' me, en let him talk, ef he'd a mind ter, ter
de fence-post. Hit's mighty easy ter see what you
ought ter do after de do am done; remember dat, son.
You see, Pete come up here to ax 'bout his hoe, what
A BOY'S BATTLE.
he say some-un tuk off'n de horse-apple-tree, whar he
hung it 'mongst de limbs. He excused me ob takin'
hit; en den I tol' him he ain't showing' de proper
respect' ter a ole man, ter be excusin' ob him o' takin'
a measly ole hoe. En den I invite him to make
hisse'f mo' sca'ce en what he am, else I'd sho' sick
de dogs on him. At dat he swell up till he look
lack dat ole tucky-gobbler ole Mis' been sabin' fur
Thanksgibin.' Den we bofe passed some compliments
ober one nudder; en den, dest fur fun, I tuk down de
ole gun en ax dat yeller gent'man ter Icmme see
de colour ob his heels. Ef you could a-seed him cut
en run I wuz dat tickled I didn't know what ter do.
So I jest put out after him, jest ter see him clip it.
Dey ain' been no load in de gun since las' summer,
because I been to po'ly ter shoot all las' winter; so
Miss Jinny tuk out de las' load, because she say dat
anybody what dunno cat fum rabbit ain' fitten ter
tote no gun. She say dey i1ight shoot a man some-
time, en 'low it wuz a b'ar. Dat's what Miss Jinny
say. En she wuz mightily skeered when she see me
chasing' ob Pete. Dat's huccome she drap her work
en lit out after me. Women folks is mighty skeery
'bout dey ole mans sometimes, ef dey be toler'ble peart
en fine looking Sholy, sholy "
He laughed in a low, chuckling way, and, after
listening with regret to Andrew's account of his
mother's refusal to allow him to go with him to the
woods, went in to the dinner which aunt Jenny an-
nounced from the doorway to be raidy en waiting. "
But I tell you, honey," he said, at parting, in his
simple, hopeful way trying to comfort his friend,
"I 'spect yo' ma gwine be sorry after while, en remit
you ter go bimeby. Ef she do, you jest clip across de
low ground' field' whar de sheep paschers, en den hoof
it 'long down froo de orchard, en froo de cottin patch,
on de side todes de ribber, tell you comes ter cedar
woods. Den you got ter climb do fence en cross de
road, en in de cedars on de fur side de pike, todes
town, dar you'll find de ole man. You got ter cross
de ribber, but de water mighty low at de ford; you
kin step it on de rocks. I'll keep one eye skunt fur
you; en you'll know when you git dar by de scent o'
de cedar, because it sholy don't smell nowhars lack it
smell down dar in de Stone Ribber woods. En dey'll
be a 'possum dar, I 'spect, because I gwine fetch my
rabbit-foot long ter cunjure de varmints wid. Eh,
eh! You jest come long; I'll be dar, en dez ain'
hothin' 'tall ter hurt you."
Hurt me ?" sneered Andrew, ready to fire at the
suggestion. "Hurt me ? Pshaw! "
"Dar now," laughed old Jack, listen at dat; dest
listen at dat, gent'mens. I knowed you ain' gwine
take dat. But I knows you ain' no coward, son. I
ain' furgit de night you rid dat skeetish filly ter town
ter fetch de doctor fur ole Jack. Psher! I say it.
I know you ain' no coward. I allus say dat little boy
make a man some day; den look out! I say dat de
day you wuz fust bornded. I say I 'spect he be
President, en maybe git hisse'f made squire, lack his
A BOY'S BATTLE.
grandpa wuz, befo' de war. Maybe he move ter town
en git ter be de police hitse'f, he dat peart. Now,
dat's what I say. I know you ain' no coward, son."
The commendation was sweetest music to the boy,
whose idea of greatest manhood was courage, and
who had all a boy's love for that which pertained to
the heroic, and tasted of adventure. But lie had not
learned to make nice distinctions; as yet he recog-
nised but one kind of bravery, and that was a physi-
cal courage. And he was brave, after his own ideas.
But he was destined to learn that the grandest and
most dazzling example of physical bravery which ever
has been recorded is as nothing compared with the
winning of a moral victory, resisting a wrong,
daring to do that which is right, for no other reason
than that it is right. An ignorant old negro was to
be his teacher. Thus are the humblest sometimes
chosen to carry God's great messages.
In regard to Mrs. Pearson's relenting, however,
uncle Jack was mistaken. His father had lifted a
voice for him, but it availed nothing.
"Ain't you a little strict with him, mother ?" said
Mr. Pearson, when Andrew had disappeared down the
path to uncle Jack's house, and Mrs. Pearson had
come to the kitchen door for a breath of fresh air."
"Ain't you a little strict with him ? He is a relia-
ble, good fellow, and really handles a gun with some
skill. Moreover, he is no longer a baby, but a great,
manly boy. Loosen the lines, mother; we.would be
sorry to find ourselves burdened with a girl-boy by
and by. I wish you would let him go with uncle
Jack; the old fellow has planned for this 'possum-
hunt all the week."
"That's it, John, go and undo all I've done," said
Mrs. Pearson, sharply. "When I say 'no,' do you
turn around and say yes,' and a pretty state o'.things
will be to pay by and by. Go on, just go on; tell
him his mother is an old baby, and don't know what's
what. That his pa's the one to go to. Go on after
him, Mr. Pearson, and tell him to go long o' the
niggers and get his head shot off."
Mr. Pearson smiled. He knew that his wife really
meant him to understand that he had her consent to
the hunt, but, being a woman who "never changed
her mind," she was not going to change it in the
usual way. But Mr. Pearson had no disposition to
accept a truce so grudgingly yielded.
"Oh, no, mother," said he, let the boy abide by
your wishes. It will not hurt him, I dare say. But,
if you have no objection, I should like to send him
into town this afternoon to carry that grass-blade
back to his uncle's hardware store, and to bring out
my rifle. I left it with the smith to have a spring
repaired last week.
The face of the mother clouded.
It's Saturday, John," she replied, and the pike
will be lined with field-hands returning home, and on
Saturday they are always drinking."
Why, Mary," said the farmer, the boy will not be
worth the raising if we are to teach him to be afraid
A BOY'S BATTLE.
of his own shadow. A boy must take his chances to
a certain extent, and as for me, I'm opposed to mine
stumbling and dodging around in peoticoats until .he
When the farmer spoke in that tone Mrs. Pearson
had no more to say.
"Ride the bay mare, son, and start home an hour
by now at the latest," said Mr. Pearson, as Andrew
went off to get ready for his ride.
A few hours later he was riding homeward, along
the white, sunshiny pike, with the rifle lying across
the saddle before him, and his thoughts far away
in the woods with uncle Jack, upon the hunt he had
been forbidden to enjoy.
The mare was entering a little stretch of woodland,
through which the turnpike ran for more than a
mile. It was almost sunset; the long, gaunt shadows
stretched farther and farther across the white pike
- the shadow of the cedars that rose tall and rugged
and ragged on either side the road. In those very
woods, somewhere, uncle Jack was trailing a 'possum,
Andrew rode more slowly ; the bay was rather old,
easily winded, and a bit stiff in the joints. She
offered no resistance when Andrew threw her, with a
sudden jerk upon the lines, almost upon her haunches.
He had heard a slight rustling movement, stealthy
and uncertain, among the dense foliage of a grape-
vine that had twisted itself into the branches of a
stalwart cedar near the roadside. Without a thought
"A HEAVY DARK OBJECT CRASHED THROUGH THE VINES."
of fear he pulled the mare aside and rode into the
dense, sweet-smelling, shadowy woods.
He drew up again, near the tree in which he had
heard the noise, waited a moment, listened; there it
was again. Something was in the grape-vine,--a
coon, of course, stealing the wild grapes at the risk
of his own furry hide.
With a little, low, noiseless laugh, thinking how he
would surprise uncle Jack with a coonskin, after all,
Andrew raised the rifle, took aim, and fired.
There was a startled, broken cry, such as no ani-
mal that ever roamed the woods could utter, and the
next moment a heavy, dark object crashed through
the vines and fell to the ground, taking, as it fell,
the form of a man.
Frightened, stricken with horror, Andrew sat spell-
bound for a single moment. The next he turned, put
whip to the mare, and went galloping down the white
turnpike, pale as death, quivering in every nerve, and
always with that terrible object before his eyes, the
sound of cracking branches and stifled shrieks in his
Who? Who ? Who?" This was the only word
his white lips could form. He had shot some one
among the grape-vines. Who was it?
THE BATTLE BEGINS.
BY the time the bay mare reached the big gate of
his father's plantation, Andrew had to some ex-
tent recovered his senses. He had shot some one;
he was sure of that. He believed that he had killed
a man. Aside from the bare thought, the horror, of
having slain a human being, he was doubly harassed
with the knowledge of having run away without first
ascertaining if the man were really dead.
"I might, at the least, have been able to get him
a drink of water," was his thought. Wounded men
always want water. I could have brought him some;
there's the river not far away."
Once there had come to him an idea of turning
back. He had not meant to hurt anybody, and he
was tempted to go back and run the risk of the
punishment he fully believed would be meted out
to him should it be discovered that he had done the
shooting. Perhaps he could get back without being
seen; he could find out if the man was dead. If
not, he would need assistance; if he was dead -
He shuddered, and gave the mare a cut with
THE BATTLE BEGINS.
the whip. Go back? Not for the world. He was
The mare neither stopped nor slackened her speed
until she stood at the farm gate. He leaned from
his seat to lift the long wooden latch, when suddenly
a thought flashed through his brain that brought him
again upright in his saddle.
"0 God! he whispered. What if it was uncle
Without another word, he wheeled the bay and
sent her galloping back over the road they had but
The sun had set. There were heavier shadows
among the purple-berried cedars than when he had
last passed beneath their jagged boughs, but here
and there in the open spaces, where the woods had
been partly cleared away, long, gray dashes of day-
light still lay upon the white turnpike.
It was intensely still, save for the loud, resounding
hoof-beats, that had never seemed so to ring and
reverberate. The quick, metallic sound of the mare's
shoes, striking the hard, well-beaten limestone, beat
into his ears like iron hammers striking an anvil.
Once a screech-owl darted from a tree upon his right
with a shrill note of alarm; but so engrossed was he
with his own forebodings that he forgot the charm
given him, since he could remember, at the negro
quarters, for warding off the bad luck that always
hides in the screech-owl's cry, Turn yo' pockets
en yo' wristbands innards out, else dey'll be a death
A BOY'S BATTLE.
in the family, sho'." But Andrew had room in his
brain for but one thought:
What if I have killed poor uncle Jack ? What
if I have killed uncle Jack ?"
He was only a boy, and totally ignorant of the
law. He might be hung, for all he knew. It was
an accident, to be sure. But how was he to prove
that, since there had been no witnesses to the deed?
No witness ? Then why need he tell, since nobody
knew ? Nobody need ever know unless he chose to
tell it; nobody could ever know, -or, if they could
or did, they would not understand that it was an
accident,-that he did not mean to shoot him. "No-
body," said he, "but just uncle Jack himself; he'll
understand, but the law never would."
So confident was he that the victim was uncle
Jack that lie had begun to think of him as dead,
and therefore understanding how it was that he had
The next moment, just ahead of him he saw a
figure emerge from the shadow along the roadside
into the open clearing. In the uncertain light he
was unable at first to make out who it was; but
there was something familiar in the short, heavy
figure that limped a little and carried a gun slung
across his shoulder. In his left hand he held a
rabbit by one hind leg, and the brushy tail of a gray
squirrel was waving from his coat-pocket. A mo-
ment's careful inspection, and then Andrew gave a
THE BATTLE BEGINS.
Uncle Jack? Oh, uncle Jack? Is it you?
Oh, I'm so glad- so glad and thankful! You are
not hurt ? You are not dead ?"
He pulled the mare up, and sat, half laughing,
half sobbing, while the familiar figure limped heavily
across the road and stood at his side.
Des lis'n at dat, now, will somebody ? What ails of
you, son, ter be 'lowin' I'm a daid man ? I's mighty
poly, ter be sho', en I ain' so young en spry ez I
useter wuz, but sholy, de little master ain' gwine be
mistookin' ob me fur a daid co'pse."
Notwithstanding the light words, however, Andrew
detected the serious tone in the old man's voice.
And how weary he looked, and troubled. Something
was surely wrong.
Oh, uncle Jack," said he, are you hurt ?"
"Who, me ?" was the reply.
"Yes, you. Don't trifle with me; I'm not in a
humour for it. I was terribly frightened. Did you
- did I did anybody shoot at you ?"
Et me ?"
Answer me," said Andrew, almost angrily. Did
anybody shoot anybody? Is anybody hurt, or dead,
or wounded ?"
The negro slowly slipped the gun through his hand
until the stock rested upon the ground, his hand closed
upon the muzzle; in the other he still held the three-
footed rabbit. The fresh, undried blood upon the
hind stump told that the left foot had been lately
severed from the trunk.
A BOY'S BATTLE.
Little masterr" said the negro, dey's some un
hurt in de woods ober yonder. Dcy wuz layin' in
de cedar brake down dar on de side todes de ribber.
Dey's hurt toler'ble bad, I reckin; but dey ain' daid
yit. I heard a gun, en bein' ez I wuzn't so mighty
fur off, I tromped ober dar ter try en make out ef
some pusson wuz hurt, or daid, or des wounded, lack
you say. En dar in de brake, under a grape-vine
tree, I found a coloured man wid a bullet in his haid.
He ain' know nuffin et fus', tell I fetched some water
in my hat frum de ribber en flung it in his face. Den
I stayed long o' him tell some o' de han's frum a place
up de pike come 'long in a wagin en tuck him in.
Dey's got him now, en dey's coming' slow, so's not ter
jistle of him none."
"Will he die ? Will he, uncle Jack?" said
Andrew, in a hoarse, low whisper.
De signs don't say dat he will, son; en no mo'
duz dey say dat he won't. But lemme distinue de
story widout incorruption, ef you please, sah. He'd
ought not ter been shot. He ain' a bad nigger when
he's sober, en he'd ought ter be let live. But I reckin
de one dat shoot him done think he wnz doin' unc'
Jack a mighty big favour; but tainn' so, son, 'tain'-"
But that wasn't the reason "
"Don't incorrupt me, son," said Jack. Ez I
wuz sayin', do one what shoot dat Yeller Pete sholy
wuz aimin' ter favour me."
"Pete! cried Andrew. Was it Yellow Pete ?"
Hit sholy wuz, son. En ole Jack's mighty sorry
THE BATTLE BEGINS.
fur hit. Dat ain' de right way ter do. Dis ole nigger
talk mighty big' bout Pete ter-day, but hit wuz all
talk; des done ter pleasure his oily ole mouf a bit.
He didn't want Pete hurt sho enough Dat ain' right;
dat ain' de way de Book say do. Now you look here,
son. I fetched you dis; I kilt in de woods, in de ole
graveyard whar I heard tell dey useter bury de
Injuns, way back. En I cut de behind' foot off fur
you, because I feared you might git inter trouble
sometime, en I heear tell de lef' behind' foot ob de
rabbit gwine git you out de trouble, ef de rabbit kilt
in de grabeyard ob a Sadday ebenin'. So dar it am."
He shifted the gun to the hollow of his elbow, and
with his free hand drew from his pocket the still
warm, limp foot of the rabbit he had shot in the old
Indian burying-ground down in a bend of Stone River.
Into the troubled old face sprang a gleam of hope, as
the charm was offered, in the name of friendship.
Andrew regarded it silently, without touching it.
"Take it, son, hit's a charm. I done heard dat
eber since I wuz a little boy."
"I don't want it," said Andrew. "If trouble is
going to come to me, no foot of a dead hare is going
to keep it off. You ought to know better than that."
Take it, son," said the negro. Mebbe 'twon't
do no good, but it can't do no harm. Trouble am
gwine ter come--hit's in de win'. Take dis here
foot, ef you keers anything 'tall 'bout ole Jack what
helt you in his arms de day you war bornded, en
what helt yo' pappy befo' you, en what laid yo' own
A BOY'S BATTLE.
gran'pa in de coffin, casee his own folks wuz all gone
ter de war. Take it."
He was stuffing the precious charm into the boy's
pocket while he spoke. A devout Christian, the old
man still possessed all the superstitions of his race.
He was excited, frightened, Andrew thought; and
the hand holding the rabbit's foot trembled so that
he could scarcely find the pocket into which he was
determined to deposit the treasure.
"Ole Jack knows," he continued. "He knows
what de bes'. He been here long time. En ter-day
he done furgit to fetch his cunjure bag 'long wid
him, en des look et de trouble what am come,--
Yeller Pete shot, en de good Lord only knows who
am gwine ter suffer fur hit. Dar's de rabbit-foot in
yo' pocket; killed in de grabeyard. De bes' o' luck,
sholy. En now, son, you jist git 'long home fas' ez
dat mare kin trot. Hit ain' healfy out here dis time
o' day. You run'long home."
Still Andrew hesitated. He wanted to know more
of Pete and his injuries. He had an idea that uncle
Jack was not telling all there was to tell. But for
once uncle Jack was in a hurry. Far down the pike
his quick ear had caught the crunching sound of
wheels moving slowly and heavily along the road.
G'long, son," he commanded. G'long en tell
sist' Lize dey's fetchin' Pete home. Tell her dat
he's been hurt a little. Mind you don't tell her too
much; she's mighty ficety when she's skeered. Des
say he's some hurt; en dat all you say ter sist' Lize.
TIE BATTLE BEGINS.
You kin tell yo' pa what's in yo' heart ter tell.
Won't you go on, son ? I heear de wagin now."
He put his hand upon the bit and gave the mare
a dexterous turn, heading her homeward. But it
was difficult to get Andrew off. Frightened, unde-
cided, and ignorant as to the extent of the harm
done to Pete, he was held to the spot by a sort of
fascination that was only part fear, after all. Uncle
Jack literally drove him off.
"Did he did Yellow Pete ever come to his
senses? Did he say he knew-who did it?" he
asked over his shoulder as the mare started home-
"He wakened up ter hisse'f long enoughh ter know
me," said uncle Jack; en fur a man mos' daid, he
sholy make out ter say toler'ble peart ter de ban's in
de wagin dat it wuz me what done shoot him."
But you didn't- "
"Sholy, sholy; in co'se. Honey, 'less you gwine
on dis minute, I'll be boun' ter gib de mare a lick.
I's gwine ter clomb dis fence en light out by de paf
through de low groun'. Dem niggers back dar in de
wagin ain' in no Fo'th-o'-July temper, I tell you.
Dat dey ain'. En it wouldn't tek much ter put it
inter dey haids ter gib somebody de chances ob
roostin' on a cedar limb dis night. Dat's huccome
I say you better go home 'fo' dey gits here, en say
what you hab got ter say ter yo' pa, en ter nobody
A mob The hint was sufficient to send the bay
A BOY'S BATTLE.
mare spinning homeward as though a bomb had
exploded at her heels. Andrew had never been so
frightened in his life. IHe knew what these mobs
of ignorant, hot-blooded men meant. He understood
something of the lax law which had made these
people something of a law unto themselves. And
once fully started upon their work of revenge, he
knew that no law in the land could check them.
They would surely hurt some one. In all probability
it would be uncle Jack, since no living soul knew of
his part in the tragedy. So he told himself; so he
But did nobody know ? The thought suddenly
came to him, in that mad gallop down the shadowy
turnpike, that uncle Jack knew all about it. The
more he thought of it the more he felt convinced
that this was the case. His warning to tell nobody
but his father, his idea that whoever fired the shot
that had struck poor Pete had done so from a mis-
taken belief that the deed would be a kindness to
him,-all these things convinced him that uncle
Jack, from some unseen point, had witnessed the
Moreover, he had suggested to him, at the same
time he was carefully concealing his own knowledge
of the trouble, a way out of it, a course to pursue
that could not fail to be the wisest recourse left him,
- Tell yo' pa all that's in yo' mind."
To be sure; that was what he had intended doing
at the very first. But now, with the possibility of a
THE BATTLE BEGINS.
mob at his heels, he was afraid to part with his fatal
secret. Afraid to trust even his father. He was not
positive that uncle Jack really knew, and so, thought
he, "if nobody on earth knows, nobody can possibly
tell. And if uncle Jack knows, he will never, never
tell, -not to save his own life."
"Yet," said a voice in his heart, you would
betray him ? Leave a friend like that, one who
would die for you,-you would leave him to suffer,
when a word from you would relieve him of sus-
picion? You, who call yourself a brave boy, and
who expect some day to be regarded as an honour-
able man? Fie, you are a coward! Do you not
know that the boy devoid of honour can develop into
nothing but that which is base ? Go home and tell
your father. Be a man, and always remember that
it is a very dark road out of which a loving father
can fail to lead an erring son,"
Yes, he would go home and tell his father. No,
he might be arrested and hung! He was terribly
at sea. Varied impulses were tearing him. One
moment he would have fled, would have ridden the
bay mare right on down that road and out of reach
of danger for ever. The next he would have turned
to meet the men in the wagon and proclaimed him-
self the guilty party.
I'll go straight and tell father," he exclaimed, as
the mare stopped at the farm gate. "Just as soon
as I can run up to Big Liza's house and tell her they
A BOY'S BATTLE.
He rode into the lot, dismounted, and throwing
the reins over a hitching-post, without stopping to
remove the saddle from the mare, went down the
path that would bring him to Pete's cabin, just
beyond the locust grove.
The moon was rising when he reached the house,
the door of which stood wide open. A tall, yellow
woman stood mixing some meal batter in a wooden
tray at a table near the open fireplace, where a fire
of hickory logs was burning. She was so tall, in the
red firelight the strong, large frame assumed mascu-
line proportions. As she stooped to lay the batter
upon the hoe, Andrew had a perfect view of her face.
She was a mulattress, and had straight, black hair
and a complexion that justified the belief that Big
Liza had Indian blood in her veins. It was not a
bad face, however, that bent over the smoking hoe-
cake in the glaring, red firelight, but rather an
emotional one, and belonged to a nature easily and
strongly moved by excitement. Andrew hesitated.
The corn-cake had begun to steam. The woman
reached a pan and began to take from it the thin
strips of streaked bacon. It seemed a pity to spoil
her poor little supper, but it must be done. Mis-
fortune is not a chooser of propitious moments for
letting its blows fall.
Andrew stepped into the room and called, softly,
half afraid of his own voice:
Aunt Liza ?"
The woman gave a startled little scream and turned
THE BATTLE BEGINS.
"Lor', chile, how you skeered me! What ails
you, ter come down here dis time o' day? Is yo'
ma sick, or somefin' ?"
"Aunt Liza," said Andrew, with an idea of break-
ing the bad news lightly, I was sent over here to
tell you that uncle Pete is -coming home."
Land o' Goshen! I'm s'prised ter hear dat, now,
sho," she replied, in her dry, mirthless way, bein' ez
dat's what he most allers does, if," she added, "he
ain' too drunk ter git here."
"I mean," said Andrew, "that he has been hurt
The iron spoon rattled to the floor.
"Ought ter git his haid busted," she declared,
though she had begun to dry her hands upon her
apron nervously, preparatory to making ready for
his coming. "Ought ter git his haid busted, en see
ef he'll be so raidy ter go off huntin' up a qua'l wid
folks ez ain' troublin' him none. He'll git hisse'f
kilt, some o' dese days, en it'll be good fur him."
"Oh, aunt Liza!" said Andrew, forgetting uncle
Jack's instructions, "don't talk that way. He may
be killed already. He has been shot by-some-
The woman seemed suddenly to have been trans-
formed into a different creature. She threw up her
long arms and uttered a loud, shrill cry.
"Hit wuz dat ole unc' Jack done it! He done it!
Blind Sam done heard him say he gwine kill him!
Stan' out de way dar, chile; lemme git out o' here."
A BOY'S BATTLE.
She pushed past him out into the moonlight, with
her long hair loosened about her shoulders, uttering
her shrill, wailing cries, until the inmates of the
neighboring cabins came running out to learn what
was the matter.
Sist' Kelline," she cried, ole unc' Jack's done
kilt my ole man! Pete's daid! Ole unc' Jack
done it. Blind Sam heard him threat him, en
now he's daid. Whar's master ? Lemmne git ter
She was so noisy, so sudden, and so vehement in
her denunciations of uncle Jack, that Andrew had
not time to fully comprehend what she was saying
before she was gone.
He followed her, more slowly, to the house. Her
vehemence frightened him. He was afraid to confess
that he was the guilty party; yet to be silent was
torture. To speak might mean death.
When he stood in the door of the farmhouse, he
saw his father standing in the centre of the large,
well-lighted hall, his mother near, and before them,
Liza, with uplifted hands, declaring in a loud voice
that uncle Jack had slain her husband. He saw his
father step forward and catch the strong, uplifted
hands in his, and force the woman to sit down.
He saw the dark shapes of men, women, and children
scurrying across the yard in the direction of the
farmhouse; and then he heard his father's voice,
positive, indignant, kind:
"Just try to control yourself, Liza," he said. "I
THE BATTLE BEGINS.
promise you that if your husband has been killed, the
guilty party shall be punished. I don't care who it
The master looked around, saw the shrinking figure
at the door, and said:
Come in here, sir, and tell all you know about
this unhappy business. Who shot Pete ? And who
sent you here with the news of the accident ? Come
In there, before all those eager faces ? Into all
that light? And with a lie in his heart ? He felt
as though every eye there must look straight down
through his lips' evasion, and read in his heart all
that his cowardly silence would conceal. No; if he
went in there to speak, he would speak the truth,
if he died for it. He saw his mother's eye, gentler
than he had ever known, fixed upon him. He hes-
itated a moment, then stepped into the centre of the
Father," he began, "as I came down the pike,
There was a shuffling, uncertain step upon the
veranda; uncertain in that whosesoever step it might
be was lame.
Go on, sir," said the master. Who shot uncle
Pete ? Who sent you to Liza ?"
The step came nearer, straigfit to the open door,
across the threshold and into the room; straight to
the master, before all that sea of dark, excited faces,
A BOY'S BATTLE.
I done hit, master; I sent de young master ter
tell you all Pete wuz hurt some. He ain' daid,
doubten hit be since I left him, out dar under de
cedar-tree wid de grape-vines in it."
And uncle Jack shifted his three-footed rabbit to
his other hand as complacently, to all appearances, as
though he had not at that moment tacitly assumed
the blame of Pete's death, in order to give Andrew
an opportunity to make his confession quietly, to his
father, before making the matter known to the ex-
citable group about the doors and windows.
When it was known that Pete was not dead, the
negroes went back to their homes, and the farmer
went out, taking uncle Jack with him.
Keep out of the way awhile," said he, until Liza
calms down, and we see how it goes with Pete. It is
a very ugly business you have gotten yourself into, let
me tell you. Don't go among the hands. You will
be sure to get into a quarrel; and don't stop at your
own cabin to-night. There's the gin, or the barn-"
Marster," said uncle Jack, "I ain' got no call ter
be hidin' out same lack I wuz a fox dodgin' o' the
hounds. I sholy ain'. I reckin' I best be gittin'
home ter my ole woman. Sholy, sholy."
And shouldering the gun that he had left outside
when he went into the house, he trudged off to the
cabin, where aunt Jenny, in her anxiety, had for-
gotten to get any supper ready.
A little later there came the noise of horses' hoofs
down the turnpike; the big gate swung back, and a
THE BATTLE BEGINS. 45
party of three, with pistols at their belts, dismounted,
and passed noiselessly down the path in the direction
of the cabin. They had left their horses at the hitch-
ing-post, so that none at the farmhouse knew of their
coming until aunt Jenny burst into the room where
the family had sat down to supper.
Marster," she cried, fur de lub ob de good Lord,
come De sheriff am come ter fetch Jack ter jail! "
IN THE THICKEST OF THE FIGHT.
T HE scene that met the farmer at uncle Jack's
cabin, when he hastened thither at aunt Jenny's
entreaty, would have been a weird one indeed to one
unaccustomed to Southern scenes.
The cabins, set here and there among the locust-
trees, were all ablaze with light, and every door stood
wide open. The occupants had caught the news of
the sheriff's arrival, and some were carrying the word
to Pete's house, while others were hastening to uncle
Jack's cabin to see what would happen next.
When Andrew, who had gone with his father to the
scene of trouble, saw the innocent old man standing
between the sheriff and his deputies, his first impulse
was to cry out and proclaim himself the one they
were in search of. But when he saw one of the
officers take a pair of handcuffs from his pocket, and
understood that neither his father's interference nor
aunt Jenny's grief could avail to prevent the course
of the law, he was more frightened than he had been
at any time since the accident occurred. Tell ? Con-
fess ? He was so far from it that he actually bit his
lips, lest the confession slip from him in spite of
IN THE THICKEST OF THE FIGHT.
Such a scene as the negroes were making, too;
some shouting, others crying, all of them full of
excitement and interest. Only one, a tall, strong-
looking boy, standing slightly apart from the others,
and nearer to the prisoner, with his arms folded upon
his breast, did not join in the wailing and lamentings,
nor yet in the revilings, going on about him. Yet he
was deeply interested; his quick, bright eye turned
first upon the sheriff, then upon the prisoner. It was
Mose, one of the regular hands, and he was watching
for an opportunity to serve uncle Jack.
Uncle Jack, to all appearances, was the least con-
cerned in affairs of any one present. He did not
once look at Andrew, but stood quietly attentive
while the master talked with the sheriff.
"I have employed him on my plantation since I
had one," Mr. Pearson was saying, and my father
had him on his twenty years before I took him. If
he was ever guilty of a cruel or even an unkind act, 1
never heard of it."
Don't doubt all you say is the truth, cap'n," said
the officer, but we've got a warrant for him, an' he'll
have to come with us. Hey, there, come back from
there, sir !"
This was to uncle Jack, who had ventured a step
towards the open kitchen door.
At the sheriff's command, he showed his ivories in
a broad grin.
"Lor', masterr" he said, hit ain' no use to git
mad. I wuz unly gwine in dar to git my cunjure-bag."
A BOY'S BATTLE.
"Your what? "
My cunjure-bag, master; ter keep de ebul off.
Dey ain' nuthin' kin hurt de ole man, ef you jes' let
him fetch dat cunjure-bag 'long wid him."
"Well, we haven't time for any such foolishness
to-night," said the sheriff. "You will have to do
without your cunjure-bag and rabbit's foot this time,
Yes, sah," said Jack. I's got de rabbit's foot,
en hit'll sholy he'p; but de luck'll be mo' better if I
kin fetch de cunjure-bag' long, too, sholy, sholy."
But the officers had no further time to lose in use-
less discussion; they consulted together a moment,
and it was finally decided that the prisoner should
ride to town on the horse with one of the deputies.
As they made their final preparations for starting,
Andrew drew back behind his father. He had heard
every word; his face, in the moonlight, had a set,
white look, and all the boyish sweetness had gone out
of it. It was always a strong face, but to-night the
strength resembled hardness rather than character.
He drew back out of sight; if uncle Jack should look
at him he felt that he would almost die. How every-
body must despise him for a coward, if they knew
that he was allowing a helpless old man to be carried
off alone, at night, for a crime of which he was totally
innocent! How he despised himself! Again came
the impulse to confess; again he stepped forward,
and placed his hand upon the farmer's arm.
IN THE THICKEST OF THE FIGHT.
Yes, yes, son," said Mr. Pearson; I know what
you are going to say. One of us must go with him;
but it had best be me. Could you wait a moment,
officer, until I can get a horse to ride back with you ?
I must try to get bail for him. I do not believe him
guilty, and none of you people" (turning to the ex-
cited crowd of blacks) "must believe it until it has
A sharp voice from the crowd at once demanded:
Ef he ain' guilty, huccome he ain' say so ?"
The master hesitated, then replied, at a venture:
"Because what he may say here will appear as
evidence in the trial. Here, Mose, Joe, run, one of
you, and saddle a horse for me, and be quick about
Mose stepped eagerly forward; his time for service
Marster," said he, "I see de bay mare standing' at
de hitch-post wid de saddle an' bridle on her, ez I
come 'long down here."
Bring her around to the big gate, quick, my boy;
you may need a friend yourself some day."
Yes, sah," said Mose. I spec' dat am de gospul
It was the mare Andrew had ridden, and had left
standing at the hitching-post, while he carried the
news of the accident to Big Liza. Nobody had
thought, in the excitement, of carrying her to the
Mose led her around to the gate, and hitched her
A BOY'S BATTLE.
with the sheriff's horses, after which he ran across
the yard, and slipped into aunt Jenny's cabin through
the door on the other side, unseen by the crowd.
The plantation hands were not unfriendly to uncle
Jack, but they were excited by Pete's condition, and
the wild grief of his wife. Moreover, the question
put to the master was not without its effect. If Jack
was innocent, why had he not denied his guilt ? Only
Andrew knew. Andrew, and perhaps uncle Jack
The little squad was ready to start.
Marster," said Jack, at the last moment, mayn't
I git de cunjure-bag ?"
"No you mayn't," said the sheriff. Now come
along with you."
"Marster," pleaded the old man, "hit won't hurt
Well, I shall hurt something," said the officer,
"if there's any more of this foolishness. And I
wouldn't be surprised much if I hurt it tolerable bad,
Andrew saw then that for the first time uncle
Jack's courage deserted him; he hesitated, sighed,
gave a helpless, pleading look at the crowd of familiar
faces, and burst into tears.
Unable to endure the sight of his distress, Andrew
stepped forward and seized his father's arm.
What is it, son ? Don't bother me now. Go up
to the house and tell your mother I have gone to
town with the officers. And tell her to keep aunt
IN THE THICKEST OF THE FIGHT.
Jenny up there with her, and to do all she can for
"Marster," said a woman's wailing voice, "Pete's
Instantly the wail was caught up by the crowd of
men, women, and children.
"Pete's daid! Pete's daid! po' Pete! po' Pete's
Andrew heard the cry, and the terrible words made
him reel and grow faint. He had an idea that aunt
Jenny, near whose door he was standing, stuffed
something into the hand of Mose; he felt, rather than
heard, the low, hoarse, sorrow-broken words which
she poured into his ear.
"Put it into Jack's own hands," Andrew thought
she said. Tell him ter keep it by him constant; en
ef you can't git ter Jack, gib it ter de little master,
en tell him aunt Jinny say dat po' Jack wuz allers
mighty good ter him. He'll understand sholy, sholy;
he allers loved unc' Jack."
Andrew neither heard nor saw more. He reeled,
tottered, and fell forward just as a pair of strong old
arms were extended to receive him, in spite of the
sheriff's command to "move on." But when the
squad moved off, Andrew had been carried, uncon-
scious, to the farmhouse; so that Mose was left to
his own devices to deliver the charge into uncle
Jack's hands. Finally, by artful dodging and ma-
nceuvring, a pretence of tightening saddle-girths and
readjusting bridle-reins, he was able to slip the queer
A BOY'S BATTLE.
little package into the old man's hand, while the
sheriff was trying to fit the key of the handcuffs into
the lock, preparatory to securing his prisoner.
"Hit am de cunjure-bag," was all he could say
before the officer was upon him; but he saw the fur-
rowed old face light up as old Jack's hand closed
upon his treasure. He was himself again, fearless,
good-natured, hopeful, afraid of no danger so long as
that little bagful of horsehair, squirrel teeth, and the
parings of his own finger nails lay upon his heart.
Ef I'd a-wo' it dis mawnin', lack I ought, I nebber
would got inter all dis here fuss en worryment," was
his thought, as he rode away to jail behind the deputy
The sudden revival of hope was not lost upon the
farmer. Once he called out to him to know how he
was "getting along." The reply was characteristic
of the man.
Yes, you," said a deputy; "if you are the fellow
that's to be tried for your life, and maybe hung to a
poplar-tree before the law can erect a gallows for
"Eh, eh! don't you believe a word o' dat you's
tellin', honey," said Jack. Dat's des' a little tale
you's tellin' des' ter gib yo' mouf a change. Dey
ain' nothing' 'tall gwine hurt dis ole nigger; he kin
profensy dat much. Ain' he got a rabbit-foot in his
pocket what uz kotched in de grabeyard Sadday night
by cross-eye Joe? Eh, eh! ole Molly Har' nebber
"RODE AWAY TO JAIL BEHIND THE DEPUTY SHERIFF."
IN THE THICKEST OF THE FIGHT.
hab de insurance ter shake her foot in de grabeyard
agin ef dis un can't shake off dis here little disunder-
standin'. Ole Jack ain' feard; dey ain' nuthin' gwine
hurt him, sholy, sholy."
And somehow the fearless good-humour, the out-
spoken faith, made his captors think the same thing,
that no harm would come to uncle Jack. The
farmer, however, felt grave doubts and forebodings;
there was something premonitorily suggestive in the
glisten of metal in the moonlight where uncle Jack
sat behind the deputy with his crossed hands pinioned
behind him. He felt glad that Andrew did not know
how the officers had seen fit to handcuff their prisoner.
But Andrew did not know; he did not recover from
his swoon until the men were gone. Now he was sit-
ting alone in his mother's room, fighting his solitary
battle with conscience. The scene through which he
had just passed had so unnerved him that his last
little spark of courage had left him.
To kill a man, that was bad enough, and hard
enough to bear; but to sit like a coward and see
another suffer for his deed, that was worse, and
infinitely harder to bear.
He fought bravely with the temptation to silence,
the fear of confession. One moment he would be
resolved to make a clean breast of it, but before he
could speak, some suggestion of the evil one would
tempt him again to keep silence.
Perhaps they'll clear uncle Jack," said the temp-
ter; they haven't any proof. Then nobody will be
A BOY'S BATTLE.
hurt, since no confession can restore Pete to life
He did not consider the stain, the suspicion that
must for ever attach to the good name of the accused;
he was thinking only of his own safety.
After awhile his mother came in to get something
for aunt Jenny, who had begged permission to go
back to the cabin, being uneasy about the fire.
"The very best thing," his mother was saying to
Jack's wife, when a body has done wrong, is to up
and confess it, an' ask to be forgiven. Own up like a
man. Folks'll respect him then, even if he has to be
hung for it. I say own up; it's the best easer to con-
science top side o' earth, I reckon."
And before he thought what he was doing, Andrew
said, Yes, ma'am."
She turned upon him so sharply that he almost fell
off the chair.
You, Andrew," said she. What's that you're
He put his hand to his head in a dazed, stupid way,
and stared at her. His brain was a whirl of confused
voices which called to him in wailing accents:
"Pete's daid! Pete's daid! po' Pete!" "If he
ain't guilty, whyn't he say so ?" "They'll hang me,
they'll hang me, if I don't get my cunjure-bag." And
above all thundered in his ears the coarse joking of
the sheriff: "I'll hurt something; hurt it pretty bad,
What's that you're saying, Andrew ?"
IN THE THICKEST OF THE FIGHT.
His mother repeated her question. He replied,
"I don't know, mother. Did I say something ?"
His words and manner so startled her that she
came and bent over him, her hand upon his throbbing
temples, a strange tenderness in her eyes.
Are you sick, son ?" she asked. Ain't you a
bit feverish ?"
"No, mother," he replied; "I'm not sick, but I
would like to help, to do something. Isn't there
something 1 can do ? It will kill me to sit still here
and not try to do anything."
She seemed to see, to understand for the time, that
her son was no longer the baby boy she had been
blindly trying to keep him.
Yes," she said, you may carry a plate of victuals
down to aunt Jenny. She wouldn't wait long enough
to get anything, and she hasn't had any supper. But
mind you, don't go 'bout the "
He stopped, lifted his head, and waited.
"Nothin'," said she, the plate's on the side table
in the dinin'-room."
She had been about to caution him not to go near
the well, a thing she had learned to do when he was a
boy in his first kilts, and had never learned to leave
off doing. To-night, however, there was that in his
face admonished her that he no longer wore kilts.
At ten o'clock Mr. Pearson had not returned. At
half past ten Andrew walked down to the big gate to
see if there were any signs of him.
A BOY'S BATTLE.
"I ought to tell; oh, I ought to tell!" was the
refrain that was ringing in his brain. I ought to
tell, and I'm afraid. I'm a coward, a coward, a
He almost screamed the words out to whoever
might chance to be listening, and to the silent, watch-
ing stars that seemed to be looking down into his
heart, to read there his guilty secret.
"I ought to tell,- and I will tell, if they truly try
to punish uncle Jack. I declare it."
He felt better for even this half confession, and
started back to the house, when he heard the great
hall clock striking eleven. His mother was still up,
anxiously waiting the return of the master. In aunt
Jenny's house, too, a light was burning. Suddenly
Andrew stopped and peered through the half-denuded
rose-bushes that studded the yard. In the moonlight
he had seen a stealthy figure creeping across the yard,
in the direction of the cotton-gin.
He thought at first it was some one going to sit up
with Pete, but in a moment there was another and
another, and still more, until he had counted thirty.
Something was on foot, something that meant danger
to some one. His father was absent, his mother alone
in the house. In an instant his natural courage was
"I will get the gun and go over to the gin and see
what this gathering means," said he. "It might be
tramps, and father doesn't allow them in the gin; it
endangers the cotton. Tramps ? Thirty of them?"
IN THE THICKEST OF.THE FIGHT.
In an instant he knew better; it was something
more serious than tramps.
As he entered the front hall door to get the gun,
aunt Jenny ran in by the back door, going to his
mother's room. At sight of her all his nervous fear
returned. He leaned against the facing of the door
for support, while she called to his mother:
Miss Marthy? Oh, Miss Marthy, fur de good
Lord's sake try en stop 'em! Blind Sam's done
come here en fetched some mo' men from all de
plantations round here; en dey's gwine ter fetch Jack
out de jail en hang him. Hit's de mob; de mob's
done come fur my ole man."
Her words rang in Andrew's ears like the clang of
an iron bell.
Mother," said he, "I am going down there; I can
She sprang forward and caught his arm, as he was
about to run across the hall to the door.
"No," she cried; you stay here "
"I can't! I mustn't! I won't!"
It was the first time in his life he had ever given
her such a reply, or dared to contest his will against
hers. But now he was struggling to free himself; to
get away, regardless of her pleadings and commands
"Do you think I don't know best?" she insisted.
"Listen at that."
A sound like the muffled cry of a multitude was
borne to them through the open doors,-the cry of
A BOY'S BATTLE.
the mob. In an instant Andrew's courage deserted
him. Put himself in the hands of that gang? They
would not get beyond the spring branch with him.
Mother," the cry was a shriek, "go to them !
Stop them! You must stop them! Uncle Jack
didn't shoot Yellow Pete; it was -"
He reeled, caught at the air, and for the second
time that night fainted.
Stay here with him, aunt Jenny," said Mrs.
Pearson, and there was that in her manner that told
where Andrew got his boasted courage. Stay here
with him, and tell me where the men are gathering,
"In de lane by de gin-house, on de fur side, in de
shadder. But you can't go down dar by yo'se'f, Miss
Marthy; dey'll -"
I'm not afraid of the hands," was the quick reply,
as she threw a shawl over her head, and went out into
As she stepped outside, under the shadow of the
trees, the sounds of hurrying hoof-beats on the hard,
smooth turnpike could be heard. She ran down to
the big gate, reaching it at the moment a solitary
horseman rode up and leaned forward to lift the
"John ?" she called. Is that you, John ?"
"Yes, mother," said the farmer.
"Thank God!" was the fervent response, as she
placed her hand upon the mare's bit to stop her.
"Don't get down, husband, but ride on down into
IN THE THICKEST OF THE FIGHT.
the lane by the gin-house, where there is a mob form-
ing, quick, on the other side, in the shadow. Tell
I'll tell them they have denied him bail," he
called back over his shoulder. That will convince
them the law isn't to be trifled with."
She followed him for a little distance, hearing the
mare's hoofs growing fainter and fainter upon the soft,
red soil when the master had turned her off the pike
into the lane.
They were not a cruel set, those ignorant, impulsive
men,.but they were easily led, easily influenced, easily
wrought upon. To-night they were following Blind
Sam, the worst of leaders, and one who held many a
grudge against uncle Jack.
A moment, and Mrs. Pearson no longer heard the
mare's hoofs in the lane; but the master's voice could
easily be distinguished, urging the men to disband.
"Those from other plantations must go home at
once," he declared. "And I take this occasion to
notify Blind Sam that he must not set foot on my
plantation again. Clear out!" he commanded, "all
of you who do not belong here. I want to speak to
my own people."
He was promptly answered by a shout, whether of
approval or defiance the listener in the red lane could
Oh," she murmured, if he would only think to
remind them how good uncle Jack has always been
to them; not one of them but he and aunt Jenny
A BOY'S BATTLE.
have befriended. They know it; they are only car-
ried away by Liza's ravings. To-morrow they will be
as quiet as lambs, and she the most quiet one among
them all. Why doesn't he tell them ?"
There was at this moment another shout; a mo-
ment later a number of dark objects could be seen
hastening down the lane. Had they disbanded, or
were they only moving on to the jail? She turned
back in the direction of the house, quickly, in order
not to encounter them; but near the door she stopped
in the shadow and watched what they would do. If
they should turn into the pike it meant trouble; if
Oh she gave a little sobbing cry, as she saw the
heavy, dark, moving mass suddenly sway and break
and begin to scatter. "Thank God," she said, "they
T HE weeks that followed the arrest of uncle Jack
passed like a nightmare to Andrew. The post-
poning of his confession had made the task such a
difficult one that he had quite made up his mind that
it was impossible ever to make the confession now.
The, honest impulse to go at once to his father with
the story of the accident would have prevented much
anxious regret and suffering. But the result of his
silence had been so much more terrible than anything
he had imagined could be that his fear had now al-
most crushed all other feelings in his heart.
Uncle Jack had been in jail a month, and not once
had Andrew been to see him. True, he had sent food
and other comforts, but he sent them by Mose or some
One afternoon in November, when Mose returned
from one of these visits to the prisoner, he beckoned
Andrew to come to him out under the leafless mul-
berries in the farmyard.
"Unc' Jack sent me ter see you, sah," said Mose;
"en he say I wuz ter tell you he uz mighty well en
hearty; en dat he hope you drap in ter see him some
A BOY'S BATTLE.
dese days. He say he wuz jist p'intedly hongry ter
see yo' face, en he say dey ain' nothing' else 'pon top
o' dis earth werryin' ob him, 'cept jist hongryin' ter
see de young master. He say he jist setting' dar in
de jail parlour eatin' ole Mis' good things en laffin' his-
se'f mos' ter death. He say dey ain' nothing' trouble
him 'tall 'cept de 'possums eatin' all de 'simmons off'n
de trees, en nobody ter stop hit. Dat's all trouble him,
widout it be dat his friends done mostly furgit him,
en don't come ter see him none. Dat's all he keers
about, aldo' de gran' jury done gone indict him, en de
trial begins ter-morrer. He say he ain' werryin' about
dat none ef so only his ole friends ud come set wid
him a little, en tell him how de 'possums en de coons
making' out while he am in de jail. Dat's what he
tol' me ter tell you. I tell him he might know dat
nice white boy ain' gwine be coming' dar ter de jail;
but he say, 'Git 'long dar, nigger, you dunno what
you talking' 'bout.' Sez he, Ain' all de niggers on de
place been here ? You reckin de young master
ain't got ez much disrespec' fur me ez de field-hands
got ? You reckin' he done furgit all denim traps we-all
useter make, en de pa'tridges we sketched, en de coons
en things ? You g'long tell de little master what I
say.' So I jist lit out ter come tell you, sah."
It did not occur to Andrew that Mose might have
been exercising his imagination somewhat in his elab-
oration of the simple message that uncle Jack had
trusted to him.
Neither did it occur to Mose that Andrew read more
than a simple desire to see him in that message. What
a coward he had been; what a coward he still was.
He wondered if uncle Jack had told Mose; he was
almost afraid of Mose now; his conscience had made
him suspicious of every one. Mose had no sooner de-
livered the message than Andrew turned upon his heel
and left him. standing there under the naked mulberry-
trees, wondering as to the result of the interview.
The result was plain enough the next morning when
Andrew saddled his horse and rode off to town before
the rest of the family were fairly through with their
I never saw such a change come over anybody as
has come over Andrew since this thing occurred,"
said Mr. Pearson, when Andrew rode down the lane.
"It will almost kill him if anything serious comes of
"Well, you've got uncle Jack a good lawyer, and
that's about all we can do," said his wife, except to
testify as to good character. It does beat my time
how he got mixed up in such a mess. He didn't kill
Pete; I feel most certain of that."
And I," said the farmer, "though I doubt the
jury will see it as we do. The evidence is damaging,
to say the least of it. I don't think Andrew fully
realises the danger to Jack yet; I am glad he has gone
to see him. Maybe the visit will do him good; he
has been so terribly depressed since Pete's death."
It seemed to Andrew the woods had never been so
beautiful as they appeared that morning in November
A BOY'S BATTLE.
as he rode through them. Perhaps for the last time,"
he told himself. For he was again battling with the
desire to do that which was right, and just, and manly.
The haze of the Indian summer still lingered upon
forest and stream. And where the gray limestone
bluffs fell back at the ford, he noticed how the sun-
light stretched in a broad, golden path across Stone
River, reaching from bank to bank and disappearing
at last in the shadow of the old red "forts" that
mark where a great battle was once fought.
The wild grapes were gone, but huddled close
to the roots of the trees, in the dark, moist places,
the Indian-pipes were blooming, those little, white
ghost-flowers that come when the summer things
Near the base of a gnarled old oak he saw where a
coon had made a hole; at another time he would
probably have dismounted, and cramming a handful
of leaves into the hole, would have set fire to them
and smoked the coon out. But he had no heart for
such sport now. He wondered if he should ever care
for sport of any kind again. Not unless he confessed
that it was he who shot Yellow Pete; he felt sure of
that much. And if he did confess, what then? If
they did not hang him, or send him to prison, as he
felt sure they must,- he would be called a coward
until th'e day he died. He saw but little difference
in the two punishments. A coward I'd rather die,"
he whispered, and set his teeth in his lips, as if afraid
the truth would slip without his knowledge.
Surely, he thought, never boy was called upon to
fight so fierce a battle, and alone. He glanced at the
red forts, and the bare, sterile old battle-field beyond
them; he was fighting a battle such as no soldier
upon that once bloody old field had ever fought. Yet
there were brave men fell there, men who died for
the right. The old Stone River battle-field had rec-
ognised no cowards amongher peerless dead.
He knew the story by heart, of course; and the
place, the time, and the circumstances impressed him
so forcibly that he dropped his head upon the saddle-
bow and burst into tears.
I can't," he sobbed. "Oh, I cannot tell; and I
cannot be silent! If I had only told at the first;
but now oh, what have I done? What shall I
His eyes were still red and swollen when he rode
into the public square and hitched his horse, accord-
ing to custom, to the iron fence surrounding the court-
house. There were only a few horses there yet, but
Andrew knew that, before the hands of the big four-
faced town-clock in the court-house cupola should
point to twelve, there would not be hitching-room at
that fence. For it was "court day," and all the
countryside would come to town. The square would
be crowded with wagons, and the new, unginned cot-
ton, fresh from the Southern fields, would change
hands so often that, if it could think at all, it must be
sorely puzzled to know just who its proper owner was
when at last it was hauled away to the gin. The
A BOY'S BATTLE.
negroes from the farms would be crowding the stores,
each with his bag of scaly-barks or walnuts, which
they wished to exchange for something in the way of
dry goods,-a ribbon, a gay-bordered handkerchief,
or a dress pattern of some cheap, bright material.
They never grew too old or too poor to lose the sun-
shine and the bright colours.
But Andrew was accustomed to these things, and
so gave little thought to them. He crossed to his
uncle's hardware store, but the clerk informed him
that Mr. Pearson had not come down-town yet, so he
mustered his courage to the sticking-place and walked
down to the jail and asked to see uncle Jack.
It was a terrible place, with all those sin-marked
faces peering at him through the iron gratings of the
cells, as he walked down the hall between them.
Some of them were laughing and passing jokes.
Andrew wondered how they could ever laugh again
after hearing the great keys turn in the massive locks
that held them back from freedom and friends and -
worse than all these- from respectability. One of
the coarsest, most repulsive of them all thrust his
hand through the little square in the door and called
to him as he went by:
"Hello, sonny, does your mamma know you're in?
What's the kid gone and done to git himself locked
"Locked up!" and he might be,--if he told.
But he would not tell, never, never, never! He would
suffer anything rather than risk being put in there.
He was quite determined upon it. The next moment
the jailer turned the key in the lock, and he was in
uncle Jack's cell. Then the key turned in the door
again, and he was alone with the prisoner.
Dar now," said the familiar voice, "I wuz jist a
speculation' you'd git here dis mawnin';" and then,
unconscious of any discrepancy between the state-
ments, he added, "I sholy am s'prised ter see you,
now; I sholy am."
They had a long talk together, for some time foreign
to the crime with which the prisoner stood charged,
the woods, the traps they had set the preceding winter,
the ripening nuts, and the squirrels that were jist
eetchin' 'bout dis time ter git deyse'ves made inter
Among other things, the prisoner was reminded of
his own health, and of a dangerous illness through
which he had once passed. When he said with sud-
den emphasis, "You ain' no coward, son," Andrew
started and turned pale. But the next words quite
reassured him. I ain' furgit de night you rid seben
miles in de dark, en hit a-stormin', ter fetch a doc-
tor fur a po' old sick en no-count nigger. I ain' got
much reasonment, but I say ter myse'f, dat little boy
ain' no coward. Dat's been fo' year ago, en you's
growed mightily since den; but de brave hit's been
a-growin', too, I reckin, all dis time. But dey's two
kinds o' brave, son; one's de brave of de body, en one's
de brave ob de spirit. Hit's more better ter be de
coward in de body den it am ter be de coward in de
A BOY'S BATTLE.
spirit; heaps en heaps mo' better. De braves' solger
I see enduring' ob de war wuz afeard o' ghostes."
Andrew had been so positive that uncle Jack knew
all about the shooting that he accepted this as a re-
proof. He understood well enough what it was the
the old man was trying in his ignorant way to express.
He understood the difference between the moral and
the physical coward.
I knows you ain' no coward ;" the words cut him
like a lash. But he couldn't tell; he could not face
the result of a confession. Still, he could never feel
safe while there was a human living being who knew
Uncle Jack," he said, after a moment's silence,
" do you know who shot Yellow Pete ?"
"Who, me ?"
"Yes; do you know who it was fired the shot that
killed him ?"
Dat killed Pete ?"
Andrew nodded; it was useless to attempt to hurry
Well, honey," said he, "I hab been thinking' 'bout
hit some, en I low it might be dis un, en den again it
might be some udder one. Dis am de exclusion I
allus comes ter. One day I sez ter myse'f hit wuz
Mose, maybe; den agin I say 'twa'n't no such a thing;
hit wuz des one ob de little nigger chillens projeckin'
'roun' wid a gun, en not aimin' ter hurt nobody."
Andrew breathed more freely; uncle Jack did not
know; he was safe; he need not tell; but he re-
solved to do everything possible to help clear uncle
I must go now," said he; "but I'll come again,
So do," was the reply; so do. I knowed you'd
come ter-day, because I allus say dat boy ain' feared
ter come ter de jail; he's a brave boy, he am. He "
"Uncle Jack, have you got everything you
Sholy, sholy. Miss Jinny, she done sent me de
cunjure-bag, en dis mawnin' de preacher ob de gospil,
he come in here en read me a piece out de Bible. En
hit say, In de time ob trouble he shall hide me.'
Little master "
The care-worn face became serious; for the first
time Andrew felt that, in spite of gay spirits and care-
less confidence, uncle Jack had suffered.
"De ole nigger kin die if he has ter die. He ain'
feared, because de Book say, In de time ob trouble he
shall hide me.' He's jist gwine long en trust in de
Lord ter hide him."
"You shall not! You shall not die! cried An-
drew, his tears flowing fast. "This thing shall be
stopped. My father will see to it. I am going now
to find him at once."
"Dar," said uncle Jack, "ain' I allus say you
warn't no coward ? Sholy, sholy."
Andrew went down the jail steps at a bound, into
the sunlight and fresh, crisp, free air. He walked
briskly away in the direction of the court-house.
A BOY'S BATTLE.
Suddenly he turned, retracing his steps, passed the
jail and walked on to a point where the town creek
crossed the outskirts of the corporation, through a line
of rugged old trees and gray limestone rocks.
Andrew seated himself upon a flat, jagged rock that
projected into the water, and gave himself up to medi-
tation. This was the last struggle he meant to make;
he intended to settle the matter then and there for
ever. He felt, so far as detection was concerned,
that he was safe,--if it were possible to be safe.
Only himself would ever know, unless he chose to tell.
Yet and his face flushed everybody must know
that he was a coward; it would be stamped upon his
countenance for ever, he fancied. If not upon his face,
then surely upon his heart, where the eye of God must
for ever look upon it.
He was so terribly afraid of that which he had done;
it was a fearful thing to take the life of another. Yet
the good God knew that he was innocent of any intent
to harm poor Pete. He must know, surely.
God knows; God knows, he knows, no matter
what may happen," said he, softly, and the thought
brought him unspeakable peace. Strange he had not
thought of God before. But then he had been so
frightened, so shocked at first, and after that the dread
of being called a coward had driven all other thoughts
from his mind.
It was uncle Jack had reminded him; his simple
faith, his quiet resignation when he stated that his
trust had passed from man to God, had touched him,
,'' 1" i
.,, i '* L
" HE GAVE HIMSELF UP TO MEDITATION."
appealed to him more than any argument or any false
idea of courage could ever have done.
"The truly brave," said he, is he who dares to do
right, when right is hard, and dangerous, and full of
pain. And for me it is all of these, and might be de-
basing, only that is something right can never be."
He sat there for two hours, fighting his battle alone.
Once the ringing of the court-house bell broke in upon
his thoughts; it was the hour set for the trial. He
stuffed his fingers into his ears and rested his face
upon his palms, his elbows upon his knees.
It might be me they are going to try, if they knew,"
said he to the gray rocks about him. "And perhaps
they may try me yet, if I tell. Perhaps they may
"You have nothing to do with that," said con-
science. You have only to do right so far as you
know is right. God will do the rest; results belong
In the time of trouble he will hide me," uncle
Jack's text, recurred to him. Why could not he do
as uncle Jack had done, make the text his own, and
trast in the good Lord to hide him also ?
He rose, and turned his face towards the town, where
the tall old court-house, facing the four points of the
compass, was already crowded with spectators. He
could see the cupola, and the hands of the clock point-
ing to eleven.
I must," he kept repeating. "Because it is right,
not because I am afraid it will be found out, for I am
A BOY'S BATTLE.
no longer afraid of that. But because it is right; just
for that reason and no other. They may shame me
for a coward, and blame me for keeping silent so long,
or they may hang me for a murderer, but I must do
Once only he faltered; he was passing at the time
a poor little cottage, the door of which opened upon
the pavement. It was the home of an obscure, cheap
little dressmaker, and through the wide-open door he
could see the young seamstress at her machine. Over
the door behind her, embroidered upon a perforated
cardboard, in gay wools, red, yellow, and purple,-
hung a little motto, Do right, and fear not."
It seemed to him as though it had been placed there
for his own especial help. It never occurred to him
that the little cheap sewing-woman had her battles
and temptations, too.
Do right, and fear not." After all, nothing could
be worse than living a lie, and allowing another to live
in the shadow of it, possibly to die in the shadow of it.
Do right, and fear not." He repeated the words
softly, as he walked on, rapidly now, and he varied the
repetition with uncle Jack's text, In the time of
trouble he will hide me." In his excitement he con-
founded the two, and caught himself saying, "Fear
not in time of trouble ; do right, and he will hide me."
It wasn't such a sad blunder, after all, so he continued
saying it until he reached the court-house fence and
began to search among the horses there for his father's
He made the entire circuit, but the bay was not
there. He was puzzled, annoyed. It could not be
possible that his father had failed to attend court, that
day of all days. He must find him, though it should
be necessary to ride back to the farm in search of him.
His fear had left him now entirely, having fully re-
solved to do that which was right, accepting the conse-
quences as bravely as he might. He was surprised to
find his courage come back to him, his burden grow
He went into the court-house to look for his father
there. At the door he met two men coming out.
One of them carried a bundle of papers under his
arm, and Andrew recognized him as the prosecuting
"Had a jury in an hour," he was saying to his
companion. "It will require very little time to dis-
pose of the case; there is no defence worth mention-
Andrew heard the remark, and, turning quickly,
left the court-house.
I will find my uncle," said he, softly. He will
help me, and will know what to do as well as father."
When he entered the store there was no one there
but the merchant and his bookkeeper. The former
was standing by the desk with his hand slowly moving
down the open page of the ledger, searching for an
entry made some time back.
Uncle James," said Andrew, "let me speak with
you in private a moment."
A BOY'S BATTLE.
The merchant replied, without looking up from the
In a moment, Andrew ; I am busy just now."
Andrew remembered that several times he had been
as near confession as this, and had been put aside, and
thus the impulse had passed. True, he was acting
upon impulse then, and this was strong, sure resolution.
Still, he determined to run no risk. He laid his hand
upon his uncle's arm.
I must speak to you at once, now, unless you can
find my father for me."
The merchant glanced at his nephew's face, and
instantly closed the ledger.
Come in here," said he, and led the way to his
private office, closing the door behind them.
In half an hour he came out, alone. His face wore
an anxious expression, and his teeth were set tightly
into his lower lip, as of one perplexed, lost in thought.
He locked the door of the private room, putting the
key into his pocket, and, taking his hat from the rack,
hastily crossed the square to the court-house.
Court had just adjourned for the noon recess. The
deputy sheriff was leaving the building with his pris-
oner by one door when Mr. Pearson entered by another.
Sitting by a table near the witness-stand, gathering
his papers together, he found the lawyer his brother
had engaged to defend uncle Jack.
He stepped forward and touched him on the shoul-
"I want you to come with me, Mr. Lurton," said
he ; "I have some important testimony bearing upon
A moment later they entered the store together.
The merchant opened the door of the private office,
Go in there. I want that boy to tell his own story,
just as he told it to me."
Again the door closed, and Andrew was alone with
C OURT had been convened, and the prosecuting
attorney was sorting his papers, when Mr. James
Pearson, accompanied by Andrew, walked into the
Andrew was pale, but otherwise there was no visi-
ble sign of the terrible excitement and nervous strain
through which he had passed. He had learned but
little from his uncle's manner during the time they
were closeted together. To Andrew's trembling con-
fession, It was I who shot Pete, I was a coward
and afraid to own it at first, but now I am not
afraid," Mr. Pearson had replied, in an absent,
troubled way :
"Yes, yes to be sure certainly. It must be
told at once- to be sure."
How prompt he was to act! His promptness was
not lost upon his nephew, whose loitering had caused
so much needless suffering.
The lawyer, too, had scarcely seemed to notice his
pain and the humiliation of his confession. He had
smiled actually smiled while the boy was sobbing
out the story of his cowardice and his regret,- smiled!
His face, to be sure, was turned away, so that Andrew
did not suspect there were tears in the eyes that had
looked upon human misfortune from a humane as
well as a legal standpoint.
But the worst was over; he no longer carried his
burden alone. Yet he dreaded the publication of his
cowardice; he had no hope of being presented in any
other light than that of a coward. As to what the
law would do with him, what punishment inflict, Mr.
Lurton had explained to him, after his confession,
that the law was a protector no less than a prosecu-
tor, and that an accident was not, in the eye of the
law, a crime. If," he had added, with serious empha-
sis, it can be satisfactorily proven that it was an
As he entered the court-room, Andrew felt glad
that his father was not present. His uncle had ex-
plained to him that his father had been detained at
home by a sudden attack of vertigo. He did not tell
him that he had sent his own carriage out to bring
him in if he were able to travel. Andrew felt that it
was far more easy to face the publication of his dis-
grace than being forced to see a blush upon the proud,
tender face of his father.
As he dropped into the seat beside his uncle, near
the witness-stand, he lifted his eyes and met those of
uncle Jack. The broad, black face wore an unmis-
takable grin, as, thrusting his hand deep into his coat
pocket, he drew out a roasted sweet potato that aunt
Jenny had brought him the day before, and began to
A BOY'S BATTLE.
munch it, with the same relish as when he used to
drag them out from the hot ashes in the cabin on the
Stone River plantation. His presence gave Andrew
new strength; he was able now to look him in the
face and smile, which he did, to the very visible
delight of the prisoner. Andrew had scarcely taken
his seat before the attorney for the defence arose.
Your honour," said he, and the court-room grew
so still that Andrew fancied he could hear his own
heart beat, I have a statement to make which
trenches upon the case with such vital importance
that I must crave the indulgence of the court in
allowing me to make it at once."
The prosecuting attorney was upon his feet in an
Your honour," said he, I object."
Nobody was alarmed, however, because of the ob-
jection; they seemed to somehow understand that it
is the business of the prosecuting attorney to object,"
- to always object" to everything the defence may
The statement," said Mr. Lurton, is equally im-
portant to the other side. In fact, your honour, the
information I have to impart will leave both the prose-
cutor and myself without a case."
Andrew scarcely heard the laugh which this pro-
voked; he was listening, impatient, eager, for the
lawyer to continue his remarks. When the judge
had rapped for silence, and order was again restored,
Mr. Lurton drew himself proudly up and began. His
very voice seemed to undergo a change, so gentle,
deep, and full of pathetic sincerity was every tone.
Your honour," said he, there was once a brave
and noble boy, who, in a moment of unguarded, boy-
ish fun, without malice, or evil intent, committed an
act which, under other and less pitiful circumstances,
would have been adjudged a crime, and punishable
The court was as still as the dead; every eye was
fixed upon the speaker, except, perhaps, that of uncle
Jack, who was intently regarding the gap he had
made in the roasted potato.
"This boy," continued the attorney, riding along
the turnpike in the dusk of the evening, saw an object
in a grape-tree which he supposed to be a coon feed-
ing upon wild grapes. With all a boy's love of sport
he lifted his rifle, took aim, and fired. There was a
crash of breaking boughs, a cry which cut to the
heart of the horrified lad, and a man, bruised and
bleeding, wounded unto death, dropped heavily to the
ground. The boy gazed for a single instant; then,
horror-stricken, turned and fled. Afterward, think-
ing the man might be alive and needing help, he
turned back to his assistance. Hearing that he was
beyond help, and ignorant of the law, the boy turned
coward for a moment and resolved to keep his secret,
lest the law take hold upon him and hold him guilty
of murder. But, your honour, another, an old man, a
negro, there he sits, was charged with the crime,
and dragged away to jail before the very eyes of the
A BOY'S BATTLE.
guilty, suffering boy. Yet he held his peace; he was
afraid. He saw the arrest, witnessed the gathering of
a mob to take the old man from jail and lynch him, -
yet fear chained his tongue. He knew that old man
was to be tried for his life; knew that in all probabil-
ity he would be punished; yet he held his secret
unrevealed, no fear could pinch it from him. Yet
all the while was conscience, that God-given guide to
peace, at work. This morning, your honour, this con-
science-stricken boy fought his last battle with cow-
ardly temptation. It was a wordless, bloodless battle,
in which good and evil, right and wrong, truth and
falsehood, honour and dishonour, arrayed themselves
in battle-line againstt one another. He fought alone,
single-handed, without other weapon than honest
blood and manly courage. Your honour, I am here
to tell you that he came off that lonely battle-field a
conqueror. He asks me to say to this court that he
has tried to do that which is right, and that he is
ready to accept the consequences. I am here to ask
you to hear that brave boy's story, and then to send
this faithful old black man home to his cabin and his
There were few dry eyes in the court-room when
the attorney resumed his seat. Among the spectators
there was a movement as if they were about to break
into applause, but the judge quickly suppressed it, and
a moment later Andrew took the witness-stand. As
he arose, the first face he saw was his father's.
Tears were rolling down his cheeks, and his lips
twitched with the emotion he was endeavouring to
control. But there was no anger in the face, only
surprise, sympathy, tenderness. Andrew turned his
own face and began to speak, gathering courage as
he proceeded. He repeated the whole story, how he
had twice attempted to tell his father, the part uncle
Jack had played in the confession, the visit to the
town creek, the little seamstress's motto in gay work.
There was not one who heard it without tears; there
was not one who heard it who had not been a boy
I was afraid," he said, in closing. It was such a
terrible thing for a boy to do, though I did not intend
to hurt uncle Pete. I was afraid they would hang me,
at first, then I think I became more afraid of being
called a coward than I was of being hung. But I did
it; it was an accident. I am telling the truth; I want
to do right. I was a coward, but I want to do right
- if I die for it."
As he turned to resume his seat, the prosecuting
attorney, who had been wrenching his nose for some
fifteen minutes, leaned forward and offered Andrew
his hand. But the attorney was not the only one to
appreciate the boy's brave struggle, and to recognize
the courage that had dared to do the right in the face
as he believed of certain disaster, just because it
was right. The judge blew his nose more violently
than was necessary; uncle Jack's potato -he had
forgotten to finish it dropped to the floor, while
uncle Jack gave expression to a low-spoken:
A BOY'S BATTLE.
Dar! Ain' I done tol' you dat little boy ain' no
coward ? Sholy, sholy!"
Your honour," said the prosecuting attorney, "I
move that the case against the prisoner be dismissed."
This was done at once, after which the court took
a recess, -" In order to clear up the atmosphere of
brine," some one said.
As uncle Jack was leaving the room he ran against
the sheriff who had made the arrest at his cabin a
month before. The officer smiled and extended his
"Well, uncle Jack," said he, "I see you are deter-
mined to beat me out of a job."
Uncle Jack gave the sheriff his left hand; his
right was thrust hastily into his pocket, and a mo-
ment later he was flourishing before the eyes of the
astonished officer a little flat, soiled, three-cornered
bag made of coarse, yellow domestic.
"Ain' I done tol' you dat cunjure-bag keep off de
bad luck ?" said he. Dat's huccome I say I 'bleeged
ter fotch it 'long o' me. Sholy, sholy !"
But that night, in the cabin on the Stone River
plantation, uncle Jack had a very different story to
tell. The news of the releasing of the prisoner
reached the farm some hours before he walked into
the cabin where aunt Jenny was bending over the fire
basting a roasting pig with a mixture of vinegar, salt,
and pepper. The table was spread with a white linen
cloth, and, evidently, festivities of an unusual order
were on foot, for since noon dusky forms had been
" IT WAS DARK WHEN IE REACHED THE CABIN DOOR."
darting to and fro, in and out the cabin door, each
bringing an offering for the festerbul" that was to
celebrate the return of the prisoner.
Not the least energetic among those who prepared
the feast was Big Lize, Pete's wife. She had killed
her best gobbler, dressed and cooked it, and brought
it along with the 'possum that Mose had asked her to
bake, with some sweet potatoes, as his contribution to
the supper. From the farmhouse the mistress had
sent down a pound-cake and a basket of doughnuts in
Andrew's name, while the master sent the identical
shoat that aunt Jenny was so industriously basting
before the big kitchen fire, in the hope of gittin' it
raidy 'g'inst dey all comes;" for all the plantation
hands were expected to be there to welcome the old
man home. It was dark when he reached the cabin
door, and stood a moment with his feet upon the
threshold, a hand upon either door-post, looking in.
How good it was, that blessed home feeling How
good, and safe, and sweet! After i.,in.1 r',_' rest;
after turmoil, doubt, and uncertainty, peace. The
very smell of the corn-cake browning upon the hoe
off one end of the hearth was 'like a perfume-a
sweet, familiar old perfume to his nostrils. And
the fat, shapeless figure bending over her barbecue
was as perfect to his partial eye as any faultless
Milo to the trained eye of an artist. He saw the
table with its burden of good things, the odour of
'possum filled the room, seeming to demand recogni-
tion. The ex-prisoner thrust his woolly head well
A BOY'S BATTLE.
into the room, but without entering called out, in his
glad old way:
"Eh, eh 'Spec' you looking' fur cunfny ter supper
dis night, Miss Jinny. Sholy, sholy!"
She gave a funny little shout that was half joy, half
surprise, dropped her basting-mop into the bowl of
vinegar, and for very weakness sat down upon the
hard puncheon floor and began to cry.
The news of his arrival soon spread, and then the
visitors began to gather, led by Yellow Pete's widow.
Their Howdy you do, unc' Jack ?" could be heard
on all sides, as they came down the little paths to the
cabin, across the orchard, through the chinquapin
thicket, and across the sheep pasture. They had for-
gotten the arrest, the mob, the very crime itself; they
remembered only that he had suffered, and that he
had returned to them.
Such a night as they made of it! Such stories as
were told between the tunes that Mose picked out
upon his banjo. And when they were tired of music
and feasting, they remembered to ask about the trial.
Was you skeered? Tell us all 'bout hit," they
Uncle Jack straightened himself in his chair, laid
his rough old hand across aunt Jenny's shoulder, and
I wuz feeling some bad, sholy. Hit seems lack
dey wuz boun' ter hang me, anyhows, dis mawnin'
when I went inter de cote-room. But when I look up
en see de little master setting' dar looking' so brave-
lack, all my skeer des went skeetin' off. Soon's I see
him I jest tuk out dat sweet 'tater what Miss Jinny
sont me, en begin ter eat it, kase I knowed hit wuz all
right. En dat's all dey is ter tell. I disremember
all dey said, because I wuz thinking' 'bout de time dat
chile rid off in de dark ter fotch de doctor, en I sez,
sez I,' Dat little boy ain' no coward. He gwine tell
all 'bout it his ownse'f, bimeby.' Dat's huccome I
ain' tol' when I see him shoot in de grape-vine en
kill po' Pete. I know he gwine tell hit all his own-
se'f bimeby. En when I see his ma crope out ter de
gate ter meet him, when we-alls got home ter-night,
seem lack I couldn't hear dat she say, Howdy, unc'
Jack ? En welcome home ag'in.' Seem lack I could
unly see her op'n her arms en take dat big boy o' hers
inter 'em, en hol' him fast en never say a blessed word.
But I spoke up, en sez I, Mistiss, dey's some mighty
fine folks in dis worl', I reckin', but dey ain' none in
hit mo' braver en what dat chile am. Sholy, sholy "